The bishops' political strategy and the Church tax exemption

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 05, 2012

Responding to my argument that the US bishops should adopt a tougher new political strategy, reader Joseph Michael Gentilini made a good point:

If the bishops get tangled in urging Catholics to support or not support any particular politician in any election, they risk losing their tax-exempt status and rightly so.

That’s true. The bishops cannot afford to become involved in partisan political campaigning. (Among other things, the effort could backfire, actually helping liberal candidates.) However:

  1. While they should not tell Catholics to vote for a particular candidate, bishops and priests can remind the faithful that it is culpably wrong to vote for candidates who support gravely immoral policies. The USCCB can issue a new “voter guide,” clearing up the confusion that still flows from the existing Faithful Citizenship document. Still more important, they can issue public rebukes to the Catholic lawmakers who espouse unacceptable policies. In short, the bishops can show that they are taking the moral issues of the campaign seriously.
  2. If Catholic schools, hospitals, and charitable agencies are forced to close down because they cannot comply with an unjust federal policy, they won’t be needing their tax-exempt status anymore.
  3. If the tax exemption can be protected only by remaining silent in the face of injustice, then to hell with the tax exemption. ”For what would it profit a man…”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Jefesabella1011 - Mar. 21, 2019 12:34 AM ET USA

    All I can say is keep fighting the fight, Mr. Lawler. This may be Custer’s last stand, but it has to be stood.

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Mar. 16, 2019 11:51 AM ET USA

    I can't wait for the comments claiming that you are being "mean-spirited" and "uncharitable" by pointing out the truth. I pray for the soul of Cardinal Danneels, but I must not deny the great harm he helped to commit on the Church, and the souls of many.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Mar. 16, 2019 11:19 AM ET USA

    It has been more than a year that four cardinals sent the dubia to Pope Francis asking for clarification after the moral confusion created by Amoris Laetia and he has not responded. It has been more than six months that Arch Vigano wrote that Pope Francis knew about ex-Cardinal McCarrick's immorality, and he still maintains silence. Can we conclude that he does not care at all about what faithful Catholics think? I think we can

  • Posted by: Monserrat - Mar. 15, 2019 1:42 PM ET USA

    The image made famous by Paul VI and captured in the title of your last book - “the smoke of Satan” - is morphing into a blazing holocaust. Only God, hearing our prayers, can put a stop to it.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 05, 2012 8:29 PM ET USA

    The Bishops are asking American Catholics to defend a teaching that they neither know nor understand--thanks to the inaction of the Bishops? Please explain how they expect this to happen.